The Perks (and Pitfalls) of Job Hopping

Katie Simon
Posted

job-hoppingYou’ve probably heard this career advice a million times: Be careful about short-term stays on your resume. Prospective employers want to see your commitment to a position.

But writer Cameron Keng is singing a different tune.

In a Forbes.com post, he argues that employees who stay at their current jobs for more than two years will bring in 50% less in lifetime earnings than those more willing to job hop. And since his calculations were based on a 10-year career, that’s actually a fairly conservative estimate.

King breaks down the math: The average raise you can expect in 2014 is 3%—up to 4.5% for top performers and as low as 1.3% for under-performers. But when you factor in inflation at 2.1%, that 3% raise is really less than 1%. In comparison, an employee who leaves one position for a different company can expect an average of a 10% to 20% salary boost.

So why does it seem like loyal employees are being punished for long-term stays? For starters, the recession allowed businesses to blame the market for low raises, claiming the 3% average was only temporary. Yet, years later, we’ve all accepted this as the norm.

At the same time, many companies are starving for skilled workers—and may pay as much as a 25% salary increase for a 10% increase in employee productivity. The very businesses that have lowered the raise norm have set up their high performers to hop jobs for better pay.

But the flip side, of course, is that frequently changing jobs doesn’t appeal to all employers—and some Keng references may even disqualify candidates simply for having too many career shifts on their resume. For that reason, it may be worth sticking it out for a few more years to minimize the risk of appearing unreliable. Plus, your career isn’t just about pay. For many, physical health, lower day-to-day stress and a higher quality of life might outweigh a bigger paycheck.

Yet Keng says he stands by his argument that workers should consider fewer long-term stays. “As an individual, you’re a C.E.O. of one, and you have a duty to maximize your profits,” writes Keng.